Her Ladyship and I decided, at the last minute, to take a "road trip" to the Berkshire Hathaway annual shareholders' meeting in Omaha. And, being a "road trip," we decided to take our two dogs.
I read in the Omaha newspaper that this meeting brings the largest influx of tourists to the Omaha area, so we were fortunate to get a hotel room at the last second -- and in a hotel that welcomed (more or less) dogs. American Express handled the reservation for us, and explained that the hotel had a policy of one dog per room. We therefore had to rent two connecting rooms -- at a cost of $400 per night for the two.
I was pleased to see that the hotel manager, Dan Toman, actively responds to all online reviews -- whether they are good or bad. And it looks like Dan has had to deal with his share of unfavorable reviews as the hotel underwent its recent metamorphosis from a Crowne Plaza to a Sheraton (at a cost of $4 million, according to Hotel Business Review). We contacted Dan by e-mail prior to our arrival, and he responded promptly. He arranged for the connecting rooms, and did his best -- during a very busy period -- to find someone to "babysit" our dogs while we were at the meeting. The kennel Dan suggested needed 10 days notice: the Amex Concierge was able to find a kennel that could assist.
On check-in we were told that our two rooms had been refurbished, and that we would be the first people to stay in them. The rooms did look fresh and new, but they still had the layout of a 1970's Holiday Inn. This was most evident in the bathrooms, with old-fashioned shower/tub combinations, and a toilet that was so close to the newly-installed cabinet that you needed to sit on it at a 90 degree angle (see photograph). The bed was very comfortable, the linen nice, the WiFi fast and free, but the "view" out of our ground-floor room was of a couple of large shipping containers.
When I walked around the parking lot with the dogs, I was surprised at all of the cracks -- many of them seemed to have slimy water bubbling up. The outside "deck" of the swimming pool was particularly uninviting: adjacent to the same shipping containers, cracked concrete, and a view of -- well, of trees and the parking lot.
We found the hotel staff generally attentive: Her Ladyship likes to have water bottles frozen at night, and they were able to do this cheerfully and without problems. We had dinner in the hotel both nights, and the food was tasty and inexpensive. Our waitress both nights was incredibly cheerful and efficient.
I couldn't help but reflect on our own experience remodeling part of our house. We decided to stick with the existing foundation, which (in retrospect) meant we were circumscribed by what we could do. The hotel owners would certainly have achieved a better result, and would have produced a much nicer hotel, if they tore the building down and started from scratch. But they couldn't have done that for $4 million.
This hotel would be fine for businessmen visiting Omaha, but we found it somewhat disappointing (particularly at the price charged --- understandable considering the demand for hotel rooms during the BRK meeting). When we return to Omaha, I think I'd like to try someplace else. I hate to say this because Dan tried so hard, but I doubt he had much (or any) say in the design of the bathrooms, etc.
- Official Description (provided by the hotel):
- Sheraton Omaha Hotel has 10,000 sq ft of event space, on-site dining, and free shuttle service to anywhere within a 5 mile radius including TD Ameritrade, Hewlett-Packard, Blue Cross Blue Shield, and Westroads Mall. ... more less
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- Also Known As:
- Crowne Plaza Omaha
- Omaha Crowne Plaza